After an unexpected break and a pause for a blog tour review my 2018 Plans and Resolutions series resumes with a lovely post from Paula Harmon about her writing and about her father who sounds like someone I would have liked to meet. So, get settled with a cup of tea or whatever you normally have when reading and enjoy this beautifuly written post.
In January 2017, I put a story on my website called ‘Resolutions’ which, while not exactly biographical probably sums up my lack of success with them. It was true that I started off with the intention to get fitter and surprise, it didn’t happen! Maybe in 2018.
On the other hand, in 2018, I do need all my energy to try and achieve all my writing related goals which include being involved in plans to raise the profile of writing in my local town.
Apart from these, one of things I’d really like to do in 2018 is to explore the holloways of Dorset. My parents were keen hikers and dragged my sister and me out over hill and dale when we were children. To take my mind off any blisters or thoughts of friends who got to watch TV at weekends, I used to pretend I was on my own, in another universe or time, making up stories in my head. I’d like to recapture this feeling, walking through the strange worlds of Hell Lane and Coombe Down. I will do it, imagining my father striding off ahead with his shiny brown walking boots and his backpack, issuing orders or quoting poetry. My father. January is my birth month. It was also my father’s birth month. If anything ever convinced me not to take astrology seriously, it was that if Capricorns are supposed to be hyper-organised, my father was the exception which proves the rule. Actually, that’s not entirely fair. He would keep detailed records of fuel consumption for no reason whatsoever. A life long battler with his waistline, he also weighed himself religiously every single day and noted his gains and losses on a never ending chart. Once I asked him why he did it daily and not weekly. He said it was because he’d once been on a very effective diet which said you must. He’d long since stopped doing the diet itself of course. This was as organised as he got. Otherwise, his life was chaotic.
And this takes me back to my real life resolutions in 2017. One had been to finish revising a thriller which I wrote two years ago. Nagging at the back of my mind, however, was a book which I’d started and not quite finished, which was a tribute to my father who died in 2012.
I think I was putting off its completion because it was so personal. It had started in around 2008 with a silly story I wrote for him and my mother, about two pensioners who spend half their lives in coffee shops, complaining about their boring 40 something year old daughter. Accidentally, they solve a crime. I later wrote a second story, in which the same two pensioners find themselves on Westminster Bridge with a cat in a basket. The cat is, in fact, their granddaughter on whom a spell has been cast by their grandson.
They were thrilled with the stories and I planned more but then Dad got ill. He spent the last week of his life in intensive care and my sister and I camped out in our parents’ very cluttered home. It was a very odd time, utterly surreal: sad, companionable, sometimes even funny. After his death, my mother moved near to me and kept saying how much she had enjoyed those stories and how much she’d like to read them again. I decided to weave them into something more complex but kept putting its completion off. And then I realised my mother was about to turn eighty and that if I kept leaving it, she might never see it.
My father was an eccentric man, or at least, he would have been described as eccentric if he’d been rich. As it was, he was unpredictable, child-like, ever-optimistic, imaginative and funny. I am not sure why my mother never strangled him, but perhaps it was because he stopped life from being boring. It was impossible to know what he’d come up with next. Life was too short to tidy or plan. Dad would have an idea, a whim, a new hobby and off he’d go, a trail of chaos in his wake. Out of all these elements – the childhood memories, coming to terms with ageing parents and imagining fantasy sequences came ‘The Cluttering Discombobulator – one man’s battle against tidiness, common-sense and boredom.’
It is a book about remembering a 1970s childhood, about letting go of a father and about reconnecting with sleeping imagination. It is about not letting age and a wheelchair hinder dreams of fantastic adventures which could happen if only the rules of the universe were just tweaked a little bit. It is about family and love. Reviews have been lovely, sharing the occasional tear and all the laughter.
I gave it to my mother for her 80th birthday and on 5th January 2018, when Dad would have been eighty years old, we will raise a glass in memory of ‘The Cluttering Discombulator’ in chief: my father.
About the author:
Paula Harmon is a civil servant living in Dorset with her husband and teenage children. At this precise moment, she is revising the third draft of a thriller. If this all gets too serious, she may put it aside to work on a humorous Romano-British murder mystery instead (‘Just when you thought it was safe to go for a long bath’).
You can find short stories and random thoughts at www.paulaharmondownes.wordpress.com
About the books:
‘The Cluttering Discombobulator’
Can everything be fixed with duct tape? Dad thinks so. The story of one man’s battle against common sense and the family caught up in the chaos around him.
Is everything quite how it seems? Secrets and mysteries, strangers and friends. Stories as varied and changing as British skies.
‘The Advent Calendar’
Christmas as it really is, not the way the hype says it is (and sometimes how it might be) – stories for midwinter.